J. Fox thinks before he acts. In 1967, when trustees chairman Judge Charles
Klein asked the entrepreneurial builder to bring his construction know-how
to a board trying to manage numerous building projects, Fox spent days
wandering the campus, talking to students.
“I was trying to learn what Temple was all about,” Fox recalled. “I
discovered that Temple was a place where young people from all backgrounds
could find a path for success. I felt that I could make a contribution and
receive satisfaction from serving, so I said yes.”
Did he realize that one “yes” would turn into 37 — and counting — years on
Temple’s board, including 16 as its chairman?
“I had no idea,” he said with a laugh.
Some describe Fox’s devotion to Temple as second only to Russell Conwell’s.
His service and philanthropy are reflected in The Fox School of Business and
Management, the Fox Center for Biomedical Physics, the Fox-Gittis Room of
the Liacouras Center, and his founding of Temple’s Myer and Rosaline
Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Before beginning his love affair with Temple, Fox took his diploma from
Philadelphia’s Central High School and enlisted in the Navy, which sent him
to Georgia Tech and to service in World War II and the Korean War. He
returned to Philadelphia and eventually started the Fox Companies, now a
major construction and real estate management firm that developed the
Wachovia Center, studios for the Comcast Sports Network, and Chesterbrook,
widely considered the most comprehensively planned residential community in
Fox’s tenure as chairman virtually coincided with the presidency of Peter J.
Concerned about enhancing Temple’s reputation, the two set out to convert
Temple from being “the best-kept secret in the region” to being recognized
for “its educational excellence and the bargain that it was.”
In one of the most ambitious and successful periods in University history,
Temple strengthened its academic programs, added campuses regionally and
globally, and built the Liacouras Center and new student housing. Just as
important, perhaps, were decisions to hang banners around the campus, to
provide lighting so powerful that one could “read a book outdoors at night”
and to reach new audiences by adding classical music to Temple’s public
radio station, WRTI.
“We undertook a 100-degree turn during those years in what Temple was and
what it meant to people,” Fox said. “Sometimes, people used to react:
‘Temple, who?’ Now, it’s ‘Temple, WOW!’”
His years on Temple’s board have been “an amazing ride,” said Fox, currently
chairman of the development committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and
I am still enjoying it. It is wonderful to be able to get up every day and
say we’re going to move the ball a little bit and make something happen.”
- By Mark Eyerly
© 2004 Temple Times